CARY, N.C. — Once again, the Belmont Abbey Crusaders (N.C.) have pulled off an upset to stay alive in the Division II world series. Belmont Abbey knocked off the top seed in bracket one, Mesa State (Colo.) Wednesday night, by a score of 9-2.
This time, it was second baseman Carlos Vasquez with the three-run homer in the first inning, taking the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. It was his first hit of the series — and just his third home run of the year. The best part? Vasquez’s homer came literally as a fellow writer turned to me and said "this guy doesn’t look like a good hitter."
Belmont Abbey gives the D-II series some of the best oddball bits of character: the coach is named Kermit Smith, and he insists on bringing his toddler son to every post-game press conference "I started doing it in the regional, and we haven’t lost since," he said. Left fielder Tyler McKenzie continues to wear the same lucky pants every game, despite the ever-growing tear in the left leg. He’s worn them since the conference championship game, and every time he takes the field they get a little more tattered.
Another interesting note; while Belmont Abbey is the lowest-seeded team remaining, they have the strongest crowd following. Since all the other teams are from out of state and the Crusaders hail from nearby Charlotte (just two and a half hours down the road from Cary) Belmont Abbey fans show up in relative force.
But for the moment, Belmont faces it’s toughest test when it faces a Lynn University (Fla.) team that looked dominating in two previous wins, Thursday at 7 p.m.